On Barb’s Bookshelf: “Detached”

detached review
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I’m fighting my way through T.J. Burdick’s Detached, which is a good sign that I really needed this book.

Detached: Put Your Phone in Its Place (OSV) challenges readers to rethink how they use their phones. Awareness is key to the whole process, and I’m becoming painfully aware of my own lack of self-discipline when it comes to using my phone.

  • Waiting in line at the supermarket? Check email.
  • Before putting my car key in the ignition? Take a quick peek at Twitter or Facebook.
  • Waiting for the water to boil for tea in the morning? Cue up Instagram.

All those times, there are other, better things I could be doing. I’m not going to say that email and social media are bad things. Facebook and Instagram allow me to keep in touch with my cousins, many of whom live far away, as well as friends old and new. Social media is also job-related for me.

It’s really easy to give in to the temptation to use my phone unnecessarily. I pick up my phone a lot. And I do not intend to get rid of my phone or stop carrying it around with me. Here’s why:

  • My husband and kids text me during the day about changes in plans, or with questions about plans.
  • I like being able to check the weather.
  • If I miss a call on our home phone, voicemail forwards to my phone as a text message, so urgent calls can be answered immediately.
  • I enjoy listening to podcasts while I fold laundry, wash the floors, or drive.
  • One of my sons has type 1 diabetes, and we use an app to monitor his blood sugar. While he’s a quite independent teenager, we keep in touch frequently (by text, usually) regarding adjustments he needs to make (insulin dosing or snacks).

I’ve been keeping a journal as I go through Detached. I will admit that I did not (and will not) sign on for a full-on 21-day technology retreat. (Again, social media is job-related.) Also, I’m not yet done reading the book. But this process is definitely making me think twice about how, where, when, and why I use my phone.

For several months already, I’ve had an email boundary in place. A change in mail servers meant that email for one of my jobs was not longer accessible on my phone, and I decided to turn off phone access for email for my other job as well. This means that I can only use my work email when I’m on my laptop, and I have not missed the ability to reply to work emails from the checkout line in the supermarket (yes, I have been guilty of doing that). So the boundary has been good for me.

While the author recommends a total 21-day social media fast (involving deleting the apps from the phone), I didn’t go there, as I said above. I did, however, find out how to use the Screen Time feature in iOS to keep me accountable for the time I use on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. There was a bit of a bump in the road with that, because I use Skype to communicate with my coworkers, and that was counting as social media time. But thanks to some helpful replies to an SOS I sent out (on Twitter — oh, the irony) I got it figured out, and that little popup reminder telling me that I have 5 minutes left for the day is a good indicator for me that I do need that extra help setting boundaries.

I like having a tiny but mighty computer in my pocket. I like that I can keep in touch with family, friends, and coworkers easily — no matter where I am. I like that I can help my son stay healthy. I like knowing when that predicted thunderstorm will roll through. I like listening to podcasts that edify, entertain, and educate me while I do repetitive chores. In Detached, T.J. Burdick isn’t asking me to give up any of those good things. He’s challenging me to be more intentional about whether I am efficiently consuming and producing content (11), or just wasting time.

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Copyright 2019 Barb Szyszkiewicz

This post contains Amazon affiliate links. I was given a free review copy of this book, but no other compensation. Opinions expressed here are mine alone.

Tech Talk: Permission NOT Granted

Back when I was on Team Android, I used an app called SleepCycle as my alarm clock.

The idea behind this app is that you tell it what time you wake up, put the phone on your bed, and then it analyzes your sleep pattern based on movement, using the phone’s accelerometer, waking you up sometime in the half-hour before your target wake-up time, at a point when you were less likely to be in deep sleep. Hitting the snooze will cut the difference between current time and target wake-up time in half. Then you’d see a spiffy display showing your times of deep sleep and light sleep.*

I switched back to Team iPhone last winter, because diabetes-management software for iPhone is several months ahead of the same software for Android. Since I liked the app, I downloaded it to my new iPhone.

When I started up the app, it requested permission to use my device’s microphone. I found that puzzling. The app was really pushy about that, too. It will work with the accelerometer, but “recommends” microphone use. If you use the microphone you can leave the phone on your bedside table instead of on the bed.

"Tech Talk: Permission NOT Granted" @Franciscanmom
Via Pixabay (2016), CC0 Public Domain

I’m just not OK with granting access to my phone’s microphone to an alarm-clock app. How do I know that someone’s not on the other side of that microphone listening to what is said in my house–or anywhere else I happen to be with that phone in my hand? It creeps me out.

My friend Christine shared an article at Aleteia that shows that this issue isn’t limited to just alarm clocks. Facebook is listening in as well. Now, I don’t use the Facebook app on my phone or tablet. I look at it in the browser.

But the idea that any of my apps can eavesdrop on things? That’s disturbing.

To see who’s potentially “listening” on an iPhone, just go to Settings>>Privacy>>Microphone, to view the applications that have requested access to the microphone in your device. If you don’t like the idea of apps having access to your microphone, you can turn them off until needed.

To learn how to turn off your Facebook app in an iPhone or Android, click here. (Aleteia)

Check your settings, and think twice about what permissions you grant when you install an app.

*And about that display: I tested it once. I turned on the app during the day and left the phone in the bed, which was empty all day. It still showed an up-and-down pattern. So much for that super-duper analysis of my sleep.

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This month I’m joining all the cool kids in the #Write31Days adventure! I didn’t pick a keyword or a theme, because just getting something written for all 31 days is challenge enough for me right now.